Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fr. Sam on Hugging


When speaking with Father Sam recently, he told My Dear Wife and me about something from his childhood, the profoundness and lesson of which has taken me some time to absorb.

When he was a young baby, he was a good boy.  He was so good and so quiet as a baby that his mother focused her attention on the other children, who were more demanding, and she did not pick him up and cuddle him.  He, of course did not know that until many years later, after ordination, when something else happened.

As a middle aged priest, Father Sam was 38 when he was ordained, he spoke about the difficulties that he had getting things going for the youth of parishes that he was in.  He told of starting a youth choir with 19 eager kids the first day.  That declined such that 2 weeks later, he had just 2 children show up for practice.  He said that that was the way things went for him, and it was discouraging.

But, there seems to have been an underlying symptom.  Father Sam could not hug people.  That symptom now seems to have been one of the indicators of a loss of affection from his childhood and therefor the ability to reach out with affection and love to others.

But, Father Sam encountered Jesus and the Holy Spirit at age 42, when he went on a retreat for priests, and was baptized in the Holy Spirit.  He tells of his drive back to southern Ontario from the retreat in Toronto with Father Charlie Campbell, another priest of the diocese at the time, and telling him that he felt different, and could not explain it.

Father Sam had caught the Love Bug.  He became a hugger, but more than that he became a great lover of his fellow man, the others on the journey.  Suddenly, he was able to relate to the youth in ways he never could before.  Also, he looked for ways to introduce them to Jesus and to the Holy Spirit, with much positive effect.

Unbeknownst to Father Sam at the time, he was healed of a great pain in his heart, of the loneliness from his childhood, that one could not fathom in a family of several children.  He received a healing of the memories that were getting in the way of effective ministry.

Here is the lesson in this.  We are all bound to some extent or other in the memories of our lives.  Those memories of joy and love form us, but so too do the memories of hurt and trauma.  The memories from our childhood, when our mental capacities were not matured are the most damaging.  They form our responses to situations, that are in some way similar to the particular traumatic event that occurred, and over time a hard shell develops and we form patterns of behaviour that become hard to break.

Father Sam could not form the kind and gentle loving attachments to the youth of his parishes in the early days, because he had been formed by trauma to respond in certain ways, staying aloof and apart.  Consequently, the youth could not respond to him either, as they sought a Father in him.

But, God reached into his heart, and took away all the pain, in a miraculous way.  Suddenly, the past was gone and Father Sam could love, as His Saviour loved him, and the rest of his ministry years are a story of love and kindness, and of a big and gentle bear of a man.  When you have been hugged by Father Sam, you have been hugged, my friends.

He understands deep in his heart, why he is FATHER Sam.

If you can search into your own heart with curiosity, not judgment, and find ways of behaving that seem odd to you, or which impair your effectiveness in your life, try first to search your mind in prayer for the root traumatic event that set you on the path to your current actions.  Then, give it, whether or not you can uncover it, and all of its effect to Our Loving God.  Make it a gift to Him.  He wants ALL of you, not just what you think is good.  He wants it ALL.  Let Him take it, heal it and give you back the Truth.  Do this in the Name of Jesus, the Name above all names, and watch how the Lord heals you.

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